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Pet Stores:
NOT for the Birds!

An article by Steve Fitzsimmons, Madison Area Cagebird Association of Wisconsin (MACAW)

(Click on photos for a larger view & captions)

A blue and gold Macaw.

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Pet store parakeet       According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, there are 17.5 million companion birds in the US, or 1 in 7 households have a pet bird. Most of these birds are sold to people through pet stores. I receive many complaints from concerned people throughout the state regarding the conditions birds are kept in at pet stores. I refer these people to their local humane societies for help, where the humane society is powerless to take action. Some examples of the complaints I receive are dirty water, dirty food, dirty cages, overcrowded cages, sick birds, un-weaned birds, inappropriate perches and no perches. (Click on photo at left or see Photo # 20, Pet Store Parakeets.)

       Over the past few years, I have attended numerous educational seminars given by highly respected avian veterinarians here, such as Dr. Sakas, Dr. Joanne Paul Murphy and Dr. Pere. These avian veterinarians talk about the health dangers of dirty water, food and cages. They talk about how quickly bacteria breed in a dirty environment and how quickly a bird can become sick. They go on to point out how quickly diseases from one bird to another can spread and also from bird to human. Unsanitary conditions in pet stores are very harmful to birds, and humans.

       Improper perch sizes, or perches the same size cause birds to develop sores under their feet, like open wounds, which can lead to infection. Selling un-weaned chicks, that is, taking the baby away from its mother too soon and selling to inexperienced customers to hand feed, leads to many of these birds dying from being overfed and suffocating, being underfed and starving, or burning the bird's throat from feeding formula too hot.

Scarlet Macaw       Overcrowded cages add stress to the animal. Birds get less food, and must fight for a perch. The cage becomes dirtier faster and diseases between birds spread faster too.

       Birds are masters at hiding illness. They use all their strength to hide their illness. As we rescuers have been taught by avian vets what to look for, when the bird starts to show signs of illness, we take immediate action to save its life. Birds sitting fluffed up in a corner, or having diarrhea are two signs we look for.

       What does the pet store do with their sick birds? Well, they try to sell them to you. At some point the bird disappears. I have received information that some pet stores put these sick birds in plastic bags in the refrigerator as a way to kill them out of sight. When the bird dies the store can then submit the bird to their vendor for a refund. It is cheaper than calling the vet. How many pet stores have an avian vet who visits regularly?

       Also, keep in mind some of the diseases birds can get can transfer to humans, such as psittacosis. This is a fatal disease in birds, and can bring severe flu like symptoms to humans. Dirty cages, water and food increase the chances of such outbreaks, and help the disease spread faster. People may not know the bird is sick, and bring it home where their entire family then becomes ill.

       If you are considering bringing a bird into your household, PLEASE do your homework -- and that includes investigating adopting from a rescue or finding a resonsible breeder!


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 pawprint bullet point   More information on MACAW   pawprint bullet point   More information on Pet Store Birds   pawprint bullet point   Monkeypox & other Zoonotic Diseases   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   What is Brucellosis?   pawprint bullet point   What is Rabies?   pawprint bullet point   Dr. Bob's All Creatures Site guide to Zoonotic Diseases   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   The Petstore Connection   pawprint bullet point

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Article and Photos Copyright © 2003, Steve Fitzsimmons & MACAW. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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